There is more than one specific way to win in the NBA. The Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Golden State Warriors all have distinctive, unique styles.
Despite those differences they all have something in common – they base the way they play around their talent.
Houston puts James Harden in position to maximize his ability to attack the basket and draw fouls.
Memphis plays a bully-ball style based around its frontcourt duo of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.
Cleveland takes advantage of LeBron James’ versatility, using it to do everything it wants.
Golden State leverages the shooting of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson into a deadly offense.
This brings us to Phil Jackson and the New York Knicks. The Zen Master was back at it again on Twitter on Sunday.
Putting aside the simple fact his stubbornness regarding the three-point shot is factually incorrect (his first tweet was fine, the third one yikes) — what makes Jackson’s attitude so maddening is the best player on the team he runs is Carmelo Anthony.
When Jackson made the decision to give Melo a five-year near-max contract last offseason, he committed to building a roster around him as his best player.
Given how Anthony’s game has evolved, he has become an ideal foundation for a three-point-heavy offensive system. Over the past three seasons he shot 38% from three on 1,008 total attempts. Two years ago, when the Knicks had their best season since 1999, Melo was taking six three-pointers per 36 minutes. That number dropped all the way to 4.5 in the first year under head coach Derek Fisher. That’s trending in the wrong direction. The Knicks need to be finding ways to get Anthony more attempts behind the arc, not fewer.
In addition to setting up the team for long-term success, Jackson’s job as general manager is to give Fisher the tools to help Melo succeed to the highest possible degree.
Jackson isn’t employed by the Knicks to make sure the legacy of the Triangle Offense lives on. He is employed by the Knicks to do whatever he can to help the franchise go in the proper direction.
If he wanted to create a two-point-heavy system predicated around two traditional big men, Jackson should have never re-signed Anthony.
Stating the obvious: if you’re running an offense that’s not going to generate a high points-per-possession average, the defense needs to pick up the slack. Teams like the Grizzlies and Celtics with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo were able to accomplish just that. This isn’t something the Knicks will be able to do with Anthony defending wing players. Moreover, by landing the No. 4 pick in the upcoming draft, the Knicks can’t expect to land Karl-Anthony Towns, the kind of interior defender who could have enaled the team to focus on shoring up its defense. The realities of any team’s situation require a particular set of solutions, but Phil Jackson’s choices to this point in his tenure at Madison Square Garden have not meshed with the personnel he’s retained.
The process of rebuilding the Knicks’ roster is just beginning. If Jackson doesn’t put aside his ego with a willingness to adjust and adapt to the player he CHOSE to bring back, Jackson will have done himself in by not giving that process a true chance to prosper.